I’ve Met My Match

by Katy on March 3, 2017 · 67 comments

My friend Lise and I met up to socialize and walk our errands yesterday. The thing that you need to know about Lise, is that she can out-frugal/out eco-living me any day of the week. (This is good though, as I’m always up for new ideas and inspiration.)

First stop was to Fred Meyer where she returned a couple of paint sample chips and paint decor pamphlets. You know, the kind you normally throw into the recycling? Lise returned them so there was be no waste. Round one to Lise.

The second stop was to the textile recycling box across the street, when I dropped off an unmendable queen size sheet and a pair of shredded pajama pants. Round two to me.

The two of us then walked over to the credit union where Lise deposited a check from one of her side-gigs. I would normally have swept my hand under the coin counting machine, but there was a man using it, and I felt it would have been considered “rude” to elbow him aside.  Round three to Lise.

We then meandered home, all the while perusing various free boxes and recycling bins for goodies. I brought home a mop handle, (as these have universal threading and are handy to have on hand) as well as a pretty lidded jar that I’ll take over to the terrarium shop in the neighborhood. I also found a penny. We did pass by an Ikea rug that someone had put out in front of their house, but left it mostly uninvestigated, as A) we were walking, and B) we were walking. (Seriously, I’m committed to saving things from the landfill, but don’t exactly savor carrying a large wet rug through the city streets.) I’m going to call this round four, and possibly five and six to me.

Edit: I went back this morning and brought the rug home, which is now drying on the porch after I gave it a thorough shampooing.

People talk both about keeping up with the Joneses, as well as how to maintain a social life while adhering to a budget, and to this I say find like-minded friends. Find those people in your circle whose idea of fun is to go for a walk together, with or without errands. Find people who don’t mock your uber-frugal ways or make you feel bad when you repeatedly decline invitations for expensive evenings out. You might even discover that your spendy friends can be drawn in by your frugal ways.

Just keep your hands off Lise, she’s mine.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Turbotax Deluxe Giveaway!

by Katy on March 1, 2017 · 170 comments

This giveaway has ended, congratulations to Karen and Susan whose names were randomly chosen to win. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter.

Katy

turbotax

I’m very particular about which companies I promote on the blog. I get daily offers from companies that want to partner with The Non-Consumer Advocate, and I turn down 99.99% of them. Because seriously, what kind of hypocrite would I be to write a blog about not buying new and unnecessary stuff and then turn around to stamp my name on endless consumer goods?

But I always feel good about lending my name to Intuit’s TurboTax. My husband and I use them to prepare our taxes, and as much as I would love to not spend money on taxes, I do love schools, libraries, safe drinking water, paved roads, disaster relief, public transportation, and properly maintained infrastructure. (You know, the good things that our tax dollars pay for.)

And that’s why I reached out to TurboTax to set up a giveaway. We used to hire an expensive accountant to do our taxes. This was leftover from when my husband ran his own commercial photo studio and needed to depreciate his equipment, and the job was over his head. But I finally convinced him to at least try doing our own taxes. We haven’t looked back. Our taxes are complicated by my extra income (and expenses) from cleaning my mother’s guest cottages and running a certain little blog. But that’s made easy with TurboTax, which gently walks us through the finicky stuff.

Today I have two online deluxe versions to give away, which include both the federal and state filing. (I know it says “State additional,” but I’ve been assured that the state is included.)

To enter to win, all you have to do is write your name in the comments section of the blog. I will randomly choose the winners on Sunday, March 5th at 9 P.M. PST. Winners will be provided with product codes.

Good luck, and happy taxing! May your tax refunds be large and plentiful!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Disclosure: I was provided with a Turbotax Deluxe for review in conjunction with this blog post. This did not influence my opinion.

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 28, 2017 · 111 comments

  1. I stopped at Goodwill to drop off my husband’s slightly faded uniform pants that he was required to replace. They still have a ton of life left in them, so hopefully someone with a less picky employer will get some use out of them. I picked up a new looking twin sheet set that was marked $7.99, but was actually half-off. Perfect purchase as all of our twin sheets are mysteriously scrappy at the moment. Add in that I’m still plugging away on a gift card from my birthday, and the $4 was definitely in my budget.
  2. I browned a single pound of Trader Joe’s ground beef for both marinara sauce and a bean/onion/pepper mixture for burritos. My husband and I now have the anchor for a couple different meals for this week. Needless to say, the beans were Dollar Tree pintos that I cooked in my crock pot.
  3. I listened to the entirety of the Hamilton soundtrack through the free Hoopla app while running errands and puttering around the house today. Luckily I was home alone by the time Alexander Hamilton’s son died in a duel, as that’s my time to ugly cry.
  4. I signed up for the next month of hospital shifts, which meant I was poised in front of my computer at exactly 5 P.M. I spaced out this scheduled task last month and had to scramble to get enough work.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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A Blur of Non-Consumer Productivity

by Katy on February 27, 2017 · 55 comments

The last week-and-a-half have been a blur for me. Not due to anything exciting like winning an Oscar for best picture and then immediately losing it, but because I’ve had the worst cold of the millennium. Coughing, wheezing, body aches and a general malaise that didn’t allow for any focused productive work.

And if you know me, you know that I pride myself on being a bit of a productivity junky. I write out long daily to-do lists, and although I rarely cross off every single thing, it’s still an impressive accomplishment by the end of the day. So it’s been driving me batty to lay about doing nothing and watching endless TV. (Okay, the first day was fun, I admit it.)

However, even though I’m not back to full power, I was finally able to get a few things done both yesterday and today.

  • I transplanted an indoor plant into a big glazed flowerpot that’s much bigger and more of a bold decor piece. Didn’t spend a penny on any part of this project, which is my favorite.
  • I listed an always-in-the-way vintage wheelbarrow in my Buy Nothing Group. (I used to plant lettuce in it.) It’s been probably four years since I’ve been able to muster even an ounce of enthusiasm for gardening, so it was a wonderful thing to send it off to a new home.
  • I cut open an ancient flat bed pillow to harvest the batting for a leather armchair that needed some extra stuffing. The seat cushion unzipped in the back, so this project was super easy and also cost zero-point-zero dollars. This hack worked perfectly, and the chair feels great again.
  • I filled not one but two huge yard debris cans with cut up branches from our tree which suffered badly during the last wind storm. Although it barely made a dent in the huge branch pile that currently fills my backyard patio, I’ll only finish this task like eating an elephant. One bite at a time.
  • I finished writing a Clark Howard article that I’ve repeatedly started and abandoned. Hard to write anything coherent when your head is swirling and swimming.

Do you consider yourself a “productivity junkie” like I do? Please share your thoughts and recent accomplishments in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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This blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

Going to a doctor’s appointment can be a frustrating experience. Endless waits in both the waiting and the exam rooms, and then getting home to realize that you’ve forgotten to discuss an important health issue. It’s no wonder that many people procrastinate even making an appointment.

However, with a bit of deliberate planning, you can get the most from your medical appointments by following these tips:

Time your appointment:

Ask for the first appointment of the day or the first one right after the lunch break. This way the doctor is less likely to be behind schedule due to patients visits that run long or extra appointments that get squeezed in.

Pay attention to when your appointment is:

Women’s annual appointments usually include a pap smear, which is a standard cervical cancer screening. Unfortunately this test cannot be performed while menstruating, so make sure to track your cycle in order to not lose out on this important test. Women’sHealth.gov states that “The best time to be tested is 10 to 20 days after the first day of your period.”

Be on time for your appointment:

Aim for being fifteen minutes early for your appointment, especially if it’s a new provider that may requires sheafs of paperwork to fill out. Late patients run the risk of losing precious minutes with their doctors.

Make a list:

It’s easy to get flustered or distracted when sitting one-on-one with the doctor, so you do yourself a favor and write out a list of what you want to discuss. To also include should be any medications you take, (both prescription and over the counter) as well as the dosages. Also, you should prioritize this list, in case you don’t get a chance to hit every topic.

Be concise with your information:

Everyone in your life may love your stories about great-aunt Ethel’s crazy health issues, but you need to make every minute count. Many offices schedule a mere fifteen minutes for each appointment, so going off topic takes away from the time to discuss your own health issues.

Always ask about generic medications:

Although not all medications are available in a generic form, many are. Pharmaceutical companies deliberately make their brand names easier to remember and pronounce than the generic, which makes memorization more difficult for everyone, even the doctors. Make sure to request generics whenever you receive a new prescription.

Ask for a 90-day prescription:

It can be less expensive to fill a 90-day prescription, rather than three 30-day ones. Plus, it cuts down on the time spent keeping your prescriptions filled. This is a great plan for long term medication usage.

Ask for free sample and coupons:

Pharmaceutical reps provide copious amounts of samples that are not just for low income patients. So make sure to nicely ask both your doctor and their nurse if you can get samples for new, long term and even over the counter medications. Don’t forget to ask for any additionally available coupons while you’re at it!

Ask about specialty programs:

Many pharmaceutic companies have programs to assist with the cost of medications for low income patients. You may have to research these ahead of time, as not all doctors are aware of programs available to their patients.

Confirm that specialists and labs are in-network:

Each doctor works with a myriad of different labs and specialists, many of whom may not accept your insurance. This may sound like an intimidating project to delve into, but it’s usually just a matter of a phone call or two. These minutes on the phone can keep you from a surprise bill for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Don’t assume you need to see the doctor:

Not all medical needs require you shell out for a co-payment to see the doctor. Examples may include immunizations and quick procedures such as a strep test. Call ahead to your doctor’s office to clarify their policies.

Shop around:

A single medication can vary in price much more than you realize. Websites such as GoodRx.com take the legwork out of comparison shopping, and even have links to discounts and coupons to bring your price down even further. A good tip is to go directly to the pharmaceutical companies’ website for discount programs that can take a huge chunk from the cost of your prescriptions.

Conclusion:

However you schedule your doctors’ visits, just make sure to be as organized and well informed about your own medical conditions and insurance coverage. And lastly, bring a book. Because you can do everything in your power to be seen on time, yet still end up waiting around.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 23, 2017 · 67 comments

  1. Day one of being sick was all adorable, with nicely organized (and zero waste) supplies, but this plague has now hit day six, and honey, it ain’t pretty. I’ve run through all my washable hankies/rags/napkins for the endless blowing of my nose and coughing, and have moved onto rolls of toilet paper. (Trader Joe’s, which is manufactured using 100% recycled content.) I’ve watched approximately 752 episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Firefly/Girls/Angel and am finally taking antibiotics to deal with a delightful ear infection that hopped along for the ride. (It did give me the opportunity to joke to the doctor that “That makes sense, since I’ve been really cranky and want to nurse all the time.”) Needless to say, very little money has been spent.
  2. I went through my inbox and deleted over 1,500 e-mails this morning. This reminded me to repost three Craigslist ads that never sold from a few months ago. (Okay, maybe not actually “this morning,” as I slept until 12:46 P.M.)
  3. I didn’t use lying in bed as an excuse to do any online shopping, even though there was much hubbub about $7-off ($9?) if you spent $50 with Amazon yesterday. (Or the day before? The days are swimming together for me.) I deserve extra props for this as I have an unspent Amazon gift card, but I couldn’t think of even one thing I truly needed.
  4. I picked up an extra hospital shift next month, as a co-worker needed it covered and I was only signed up to work a single 12-hour shift that week. Our next double college tuition/room/board payment is on April first, which looms closer and closer. Luckily, March will be another five paycheck month for my husband and I.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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One Frugal Thing

by Katy on February 20, 2017 · 58 comments

  1. I’m sick, that is all. I’m nothing but spaced out in front of Netflix, and my voice is so gravely that my boss jokingly called me “sir” when I called in sick. That is all. Sick.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 17, 2017 · 105 comments

  1. My husband and I went to see a movie on Valentine’s Day, and because we chose a second run movie, (and it happened to be two-for-one Tuesday) we paid a mere $4 for the two of us! By the way, saw the movie Loving, based on the true story of the couple whose 1967 Supreme Court case legalized interracial marriage throughout the entire United States. Great movie, catch it while it’s still in theaters!
  2. The restaurant that we’d planned on going to on Valentine’s Day wasn’t doing their normal happy hour menu, so we opted to go to an old British style pub and split a $17 order of fish and chips. Of course we ordered extra French fries, as no marriage is strong enough to share a single order of fries. Even on Valentine’s Day.
  3. I’d been craving biscuits since seeing Loving, so I combined homemade biscuits with the last of some leftover hamburger to create yummy little sliders. Needless to say, they were delicious!
  4. I spent the day puttering around the house and ticking off little tasks from a to-do list. Very satisfying and certainly very frugal. So now I no longer have potting soil spread over my porch from a knocked over plant, the passenger seat of my Prius is refreshingly free from coffee stains and the jumble of entryway shoes has been relegated to people’s closets.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 14, 2017 · 103 comments

  1. My sister asked me to keep an eye out for a Life Factory brand glass water bottle, so I didn’t hesitate to snap up this $24.99 one at Goodwill the other day. Of course I only paid $3.99, which was made even sweeter by it being brand new with the original tag.
  2. I worked yesterday and brought my own leftovers for lunch, and then drank the free crappy coffee and delicious tea. Someone brought chocolates and it’s none of your damned business how many I ate.
  3. My husband and I planned a Valentine’s Day meal in an historic and fancy schmancy restaurant. Of course we’ll be dining in the bar and ordering  from the inexpensive happy hour menu.
  4. I proposed and was given two new Clark Howard assignments, I’m wearing a 100% thrifted outfit, I’m wanting to get my hair cut but am waiting until my super cheap hair stylist is available, I’m not fighting the natural greying of my hair and have made plans for two frugal friend dates for later in the week.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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The following blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

You may be aware that a gorilla-shaped Flaming Hot Cheeto just sold on eBay for $99,900. Yes, you read that right, $100 shy of a hundred-thousand dollars for a single snack nugget! Why did this particular Cheeto sell for such an exorbitant amount? Because it was described as being shaped like “Harambe gorilla.” (Although really I’d say that’s a bit of a stretch, which makes it the Rorschach test of salty snacks.)

I reached out to eBay seller Valuestampsinc to get more information on their listing, but most importantly to ask the question on all of our minds:

“Did that highest bidder actually pay?”

Sadly, the answer was no, or at least not yet. “They haven’t paid and most likely they won’t, unfortunately.” Adding that, “I think people just fell into the craze of things and had no intentions of buying it.” Such a disappointment for those of us who’d added Flaming Hot Cheetos onto our grocery lists.

Of course, it’s not the first time that a seemingly worthless item has been bid up to an exorbitant amount on eBay. Although many of these listings have been for charitable causes, others have simply caught the public attention and escalated the price beyond anyone’s expectations.

You may already be familiar with these infamous eBay listings:

Pharrell’s signature hat:

Singer/songwriter Pharrell famously listed his goofy hat on eBay in 2014 to support the charity From One Hand to Another. The hat ended up selling for a staggering $44,100 to the fast food chain Arby’s, whose logo is humorously similar. This prompted Arby’s to tweet to Pharrell that “We’re HAPPY to support a great cause and get our hat back.”

Half a grilled cheese sandwich:

Although this sale goes back to 2004, it’s an absolute must on any list of crazy eBay sales. Because when you accidentally grill the face of The Virgin Mary onto the surface of your lunch, and later sell it for $28,000 on eBay, it becomes the stuff of legends.

A snippet of Justin Bieber’s hair:

Ellen Degeneres turned straw into gold after being gifted with a thatch of Justin Bieber’s hair clippings back in 2011. (Peak Bieber-fever.) Listing it on eBay in support of The Gentle Barn Foundation, the hair eventually sold for $40,668, which included a trip to the Ellen show to meet the young Bieber.

An M&M wrapper:

Sold way back in 2004, this eBay listing went for an insane $2,815.43 to the Golden Palace Casino, who has curated a Museum of Oddities, (as well as some cheap publicity) by overbidding on ridiculous and infamous items. And yes, it was simply an ordinary candy wrapper, nothing more.

Whale vomit: 

Although the jury is still out on whether ambergris comes from the front or end half of a sperm whale, it’s still going to be the luckiest day of your life if you come across a lump of it. Described as a waxy ball that smells “like a cross between squid and farmyard manure,” this rare item is used in high end perfume. So when a British couple came across a lump of it while walking their dog last year, they gleefully wrapped it in a scarf and brought it home. Expected to sell for $70,000, it was certainly the find of a lifetime. No news on the fate of the scarf though.

Although you may never find your own chunk of ambergris or have enough elusive celebrity caché to bring attention to a wacky eBay listing, you can still strike gold from otherwise overlooked items. Although far from $100,000 Cheeto, members of an eBay seller’s group had these stories to share:

Samantha:

“A Sadler Tea Set of tea pot, sugar basin and creamer. 1940’s/50’s era worth about $250 normally . . . went ballistic . . . bidders fighting in the last few mins .  . . sold for $1920.00. It was amazing timing as it was desperately needed at the time.”

Angela:

$2191.79 for a vintage Gillette Fat Toggle Razor.”

Jen:

“I started selling on eBay in 2005 when Macy’s announced they had bought Marshall Field’s. I could visit my local Marshall Field’s store and buy literally anything with their logo and sell it on EBay for 2-3 times the amount I paid. The highlight was after Christmas that year when I found an unmarked large white box on a clearance table which turned out to be a huge snow globe shaped like the downtown Chicago store; I paid $15 and sold it on eBay for $520.

Katy:

This last story is mine from back in 2004, when eBay was hot, hot, hot. I’d been to Goodwill and discovered a jumble of vintage Sasha dolls priced at $3-$5 apiece. (I recognized them from having owned one as a child.) I scooped them up and quickly listed them on eBay. I ended up making over $2000 from the dolls, including one that sold for $1000, as she was apparently a rare specimen. I’ve since found two others, although sadly the pre-recession days of wanton spending are behind us, so they only sell for $100 or so.

New to eBay and need a tutorial on how to get started? Check out this Clark Howard piece on how to use eBay’s Completed Listings section to research how much things actually sell for. You’ll likely be surprised, as what you think is valuable may not be so, but what you consider to be worthless may just be your Harambe-shaped Cheeto or maybe even your own priceless chunk of whale vomit.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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